Trendy, sporty, and utilitarian all rolled into one, mid-sized SUVs are one of the most popular choices in Singapore – we rate the top three best picks on the market now
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CarBuyer.com.sg is the online version of CarBuyer Singapore, which is currently the only homegrown car magazine on newsstands here and has been in circulation since 1997, pointing out the good, bad, and ugly of Singapore’s car market.
What makes these cars ‘the best’? :
Cars here have been tested and voted on by CarBuyer’s editorial team. We have a combined experience of more than 70 years in the industry and have tested thousands of cars. In short, you can rely on us to tell you what’s worth your time and dollars – and what’s not.
Welcome back to another CarBuyer.com.sg Best Of, a guide series that will be updated regularly, and where we help you pick the best cars in each segment here in Singapore.
We now take a look at a category that was once viewed as something of a niche segment when it first started growing about 20 years back, but has now become a bona-fide force to be reckoned with in the auto industry.
The SUV, or Sports Utility Vehicle, was once the domain of true off-road hustlers like the Jeep Wrangler, Land Rover Defender and the Suzuki Jimny.
The segment was expanded when auto designers realised that you can make an offroad vehicle kind of car-like and comfortable too, and urban drivers will surely appreciate the higher driving position and extra space in the cabin.
The result was that as soon as people cottoned on to the fact that a family car doesn’t have to be a three-box sedan, the urban SUV category really took off.
The mid-sized SUVs are a step up from small SUVs (like the Honda HR-V) and generally cost above S$120k with COE, but their size and price also mean they’ve spelt the doom of the large sedan segment, which included cars such as the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
Many mid-sized SUVs these days don’t even have genuine off-road capabilities, but are sold to drivers that simply like their cars to look a little rugged while being able to ferry the whole family in comfort, and perhaps their bicycles or sports gear (hence ‘sport utility’) for a little sporting fun.
That’s no real loss however, as removing the heavy, complicated off-road capable mechanisms usually make the cars cheaper, more economical, and lighter for urban street use.
CarBuyer.com.sg is aiming to make it easy for you to zero in on the best you can get in SIngapore,, since we have chosen the top three mid-sized SUVs currently on sale in 2020, along with two strong contenders to also consider.
Our pick: Mazda CX-5 2.0L Premium from S$125,888 with COE (May 2020)
Read our full review of the Mazda CX-5
It’s the car that started Mazda’s re-energisation as a brand: The CX-5 is a muscular five-seater that first came on the scene in 2012. The new second-gen model debuted in 2017, with a minor product improvement in 2018 (the car reviewed above).
History has shown that successful cars with long lifespans are usually because the formula was right the first time out, and the CX-5 proves it.
A Super Luxury version of the car with a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine was once the range-topper, but that has been pared back and you can only get the car with a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine now.
That’s no bad thing, because with 164hp on tap it’s still a pretty energetic drive. It’s also no mere appliance car, and drives with dynamics that is capable of putting a smile on any driving enthusiast’s face.
The well-specced cabin features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard equipment, and like all current Mazdas, has a very logical flow to all the controls. Driving dynamics is aided by Mazda’s G Vectoring Control System (GVC), which really helps the car feel better planted during high speed cornering.
The CX-5 is available as a Standard model ($84,888 without COE), a Standard Plus ($90,888 without COE) and Premium ($101,888 without COE) versions.
All three are mechanically identical, but the equipment level goes up with each trim upgrade.
We reckon that the Standard Plus hits the sweet spot, but the Premium version does boast more safety features like front and rear parking sensors (other versions only have rear sensors), a blind spot monitoring system and 360 degree view camera. As usual at CarBuyer, if it were our money, we’d buy more safety every single time.
Mazda currently has a name-your-COE-price promo for its cars.
Our pick: Skoda Karoq Style 1.5 TSI from S$109,900 with COE (May 2020)
Read our full review of the Skoda Karoq
If you’ve been around long enough to remember Skoda’s patchy history in Singapore and are still slightly doubtful if the Czech brand delivers, it’s time to leave it all behind.
As a proper part of the Volkswagen group, Skoda came back to Singapore (distributed under Volkswagen Singapore no less) and its brand of European value proved an immediate hit.
Now heralded as a more affordable alternative to VW, and the Karoq shares a lot of its architecture with the VW Tiguan and VW Golf. What you don’t get however, is the VW price tag.
Powered by an excellent 1.5-litre turbo engine with 150 horsepower, the clever five-seat Skoda has a clever party trick up its sleeve: while other cars boast of foldable rear seats, the Karoq goes one further and allows you to remove the three rear seats completely. It’s a simple matter of flipping a few well-placed latches, and you can leave the seats at home while you head down to Ikea to load up on furniture.
There are also flip-up tables for the rear seats like what you would find in an aeroplane, and the cabin is pretty spacious for a car of this size. The cabin may not be as posh as what you would find in an Audi A3 (which incidentally is built on the same VW Group MQB platform as the Karoq), but it’s proper quality and the car does feel and drive like something that should cost more.
Driving dynamics are pretty much on par with the VW Tiguan, with the lively engine excelling in the cut-and-thrust of urban city driving, and with excellent fuel economy as well.
All Karoq variants have seven airbags for added peace of mind. The Style variant (S$119,900 with COE) might be pricier than the base model Ambition ($109,900 with COE) variant, but you do get a bunch of handy extra safety features like the blind spot detection system, the larger 9.2-inch infotainment system with nav, 18-inch wheels, the premium Canton sound system, a powered driver’s seat, automated tailgate and more – which make the S$10k upgrade an easy decision.
Skoda also has a promo on its models running until June 2020.
Our pick: Toyota Harrier 2.0 Premium from S$139,888 with COE (May 2020)
Read our full review of the Toyota Harrier
The Toyota Harrier has been a ubiquitous sight on the roads of Singapore for years, but if you wanted to get one before 2017, you would need to purchase one from a parallel importer as the car was not available through the local Toyota dealer Borneo Motors.
All that changed in 2017 however, when Borneo Motors successfully convinced the Toyota HQ in Japan that the Harrier, which was actually only designed for the Japanese Domestic Market, was a viable seller in Singapore.
So here we are with the official Singaporean version of the car, which boasts a 2.0-litre turbo engine that it shares with the Lexus NX 200t. It’s easy to see why this car is such a hit with a wide audience, with driveability, space, comfort, and reliability high on its list of positives.
Some have described the car as a bigger and taller Toyota Camry, and for drivers that want a spacious vehicle with a comfortable cabin, the reputation of the Toyota Harrier practically carries it right to the target customer group. The car drives along on a well-judged suspension setup that never feels too soft and wallowy and the 231 horsepower available from the engine takes the car from 0 to 100km/h in just 7.3 seconds.
The sticker price of $139,888 with COE might not be the cheapest around, but Borneo Motors backs the car with a comprehensive long-term warranty that you’re not likely to find from a parallel importer. This alone should give owners plenty of peace of mind.
Toyota is currently having an auction sale until May 18, and the Harrier is one of the models up for grabs.
As mentioned, the SUV segment is on fire still, so there’s plenty of choice here. The next two cars are more expensive, which is why they’re not top of the class: The VW Tiguan is the car to get if you want a more premium choice, and the DS 7 Crossback is the luxurious European choice you’ve never heard of, but should definitely check out.
Essentially a posh version of the Skoda Karoq, the Volkswagen Tiguan occupies an interesting position in this segment, where it is marketed as a step above the mainstream contenders but still more affordable to own and maintain than a luxury vehicle.
If you compare the Tiguan with the Skoda Karoq back to back, you’ll immediately note the family resemblance, especially in the cabin. The Tiguan does look more muscular from the outside though.
A basic trim level, dubbed the Comfort Line, was previously available but that seems to have been dropped in favour of the Highline ($137,900 with COE), and R-Line ($149,900 with COE), which also adds a Heads-Up display and a larger 9.2-inch dashboard screen. There’s also a 2.0-litre R-Line model with the same heart as a Golf GTI, and capable of BMW-hunting, but its price is also near S$200k with COE.
The others are all powered by an economical but punchy 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine with 150 horsepower. With a slick Active Info Display and Dynaudio sound system, the Tiguan feels like exactly what it is, which is a slicker and better featured version of the Skoda Karoq.
Read our review of the DS 7 Crossback here
You’ve probably heard of DS, which is the slightly upmarket spinoff of the French brand Citroen. The DS 7 is the brand’s first SUV in this segment, and while it isn’t cheap starting at S$166k with COE- it is a car that has a unique style, lux features and a lot of road presence.
As we mention in our review: “The equipment list reads like a who’s-who of luxury car kit, and pretty much everything you expect of a BMW or Mercedes, you’ll find here.”
While French cars have often missed the mark of real greatness, this car has plenty of style and luxury touches that’s matched with real useful features and practicality, and thus well worth a look if it’s in your price range.